Exodus Chapter 5 Let My People Go–Go Find the Straw to Make Your Bricks

Jul 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Exodus, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Exodus Chapter 5 Let My People Go–Go Find the Straw to Make Your Bricks

Exod. 5:1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and requested that he let the Israelites go so that they could hold a feast unto God in the wilderness. Of course the intent was to leave Egypt for good, but this method was a tactful way to begin approaching Pharaoh. God had told Moses earlier that Pharaoh would refuse.

Aaron was frequently the mouthpiece (the Logos, as it were) for Moses, but as time went on, Moses did more and more of the talking himself. He was like a “god” to Aaron (Exod. 4:16; 7:1), and Aaron was the mouthpiece. Moses’ stature and attitude made him the superior one.

This was something new—that a representative of a bondage people gained access to Pharaoh with such a petition: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” Meanwhile, Moses was gaining confidence little by little.

There is a hint here that the Israelites had some form of service even prior to the Law. The service would have been done more or less family-style, for they did not have the privilege of congregation, especially for animal sacrifice, which was offensive to the Egyptians. Hence the request to go into the wilderness to hold a feast was logical.

Exod. 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Pharaoh arrogantly responded, “Who is Jehovah, that I should obey Him? I will not let Israel go.” He did not respect the religious conscience and liberty of others. The Egyptians knew that the Israelite sacrifices pertained to blood, and it was out of deference to the feelings of the Egyptians that Moses tactfully made this request.

Exod. 5:3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.

Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews met us. Let us go, we beseech you, three days into the desert and sacrifice to our God, lest He bring pestilence or the sword upon us.” The request was repeated with the addition that if Pharaoh did not let the Israelites go, God would strike them with disease and death.

The “three days” are typical. Jesus said the Temple (his body, the Church) would be built “in  [parts of] three days [three thousand-year days]” (Matt. 26:61). Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for parts of three days, so Jesus was in the tomb, the earth, for parts of three days. The term “three days” is a Hebraism (Esther 4:16; 5:1).

Exod. 5:4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens.

Exod. 5:5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.

Pharaoh said, “Why do you, Moses and Aaron, keep the people from their work? Get back  to your burdens.” Aaron was a priest among the Israelites, and this Pharaoh did not realize that Moses had just come back from 40 years in Sinai.

Before going to Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron had gathered the elders and the Israelites together and done the three signs in front of them. No doubt word had gotten to Pharaoh that something was going on among the Hebrews. Therefore, Pharaoh could also have had this report in mind when he asked, “Why are you taking the people away from their work?” In other words, “Why are you distracting them?” Pharaoh was also fearful because the Israelites outnumbered the Egyptians—or at least there were “many” of them.

The strategy was clever: to keep the Israelites so busy that there would not be time for a political insurrection (or what Pharaoh would perceive as a political insurrection). He would have looked with great suspicion upon their congregating under Moses and Aaron. Therefore, he took the attitude: “If you have time to go into the wilderness to sacrifice, you are being lazy with your work.”

Exod. 5:6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,

The chain of command was Pharaoh-Egyptian taskmasters-Hebrew officers or overseers-Israelites. Hence there was a class of Hebrews, the “officers,” who were not necessarily in the mud slime making the bricks. Aaron was of this class, and so were the elders as representatives of the people. It was an onerous task to have to pass Pharaoh’s commands on to the people. Notice that this particular command was given the same day.

Moses was now 80 years old, and Aaron was about 83.

Exod. 5:7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.

Exod. 5:8 And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish aught thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.

Exod. 5:9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Pharaoh commanded the Egyptian taskmasters and the Hebrew officers: “From now on do not give straw to the Hebrews to make bricks. Let them gather the straw themselves, yet they must continue to make the same number of bricks. Because they are idle, they want to go and sacrifice to their God; hence give them more work to do.”

The Hebrews had been using supplied straw. Now they had to gather the straw themselves. The gathering would take time, yet the number of bricks could not be decreased. Pharaoh wanted to so burden the Hebrews that they would not even think of asking for liberty to sacrifice religiously.

What is the spiritual lesson? When we give our hearts to the Lord or even if we are just contemplating giving our hearts, the Adversary uses every possible means to distract or sidetrack us into another avenue that will occupy our time. Pharaoh is a picture of Satan here. If Satan sees someone seeking liberty through Christ from the burden of sin and death, he specially tries to make it difficult for that individual to pursue consecration. The people are already burdened, and he increases the burdens.

We all have weaknesses. If we make progress along one line, then Satan will start to irritate us along another line. There is seemingly endless harassment to the end of our course.

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” but if we do not take time to know the truth, obviously we will not be set free (John 8:32).

Pharaoh’s command reveals his evil heart condition. He could have just said, “No, you cannot go into the wilderness. Your request is not reasonable at this time.” To pile on extra burdens shows, instead, a truly evil character. This Pharaoh had no sympathy for the Hebrews in spite of what Joseph had done for Egypt. In fact, Pharaoh went to the other extreme and made the Hebrews slaves.

Straw is a binder in making mud bricks. It acts like ribs and thus helps the bricks to be firmer and less apt to fracture. Instead of being oven-baked, the bricks back there were sundried. Even today some of the pyramid bricks contain straw, showing that they date back to this era more or less. The fact that the straw in the bricks is not burned proves the bricks were sun-dried.

“Let them not regard vain words.” Pharaoh was telling the taskmasters and officers, “Do not be sympathetic.” When Moses and Aaron heard the command, they would have had second thoughts, and so would the people.

Exod. 5:10 And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw.

Exod. 5:11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not aught of your work shall be diminished.

The taskmasters and officers passed along Pharaoh’s command to the people: “I will give you no more straw. Get the straw where you find it, but make the same number of bricks.”

Exod. 5:12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.

The Israelites were scattered throughout Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. “Scattered” means they left their territory to scrounge for stubble. They could not go into the field where the straw grew plentifully but had to glean stubble after the main crop had been harvested. They picked up the crumbs, as it were. And the women would have participated in the straw gathering. Their scattered condition kept the people from congregating—what a mastermind strategy on Pharaoh’s part!

Because the Egyptians feared the rapidly multiplying Hebrews, the latter were put to work as slaves. They had built the treasure cities of Pithom and Rameses. Now conditions were drawing to a climax. The people had been praying for deliverance, and then along came Moses doing miraculous signs. This development seemed promising, but after Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh, the burdens were increased. We can empathize with the people, with the officers who had to give the instructions to their own people, and with Moses and Aaron.

The antitype indicates that the last days of the permission of evil will be extreme; they will be “perilous times” (2 Tim. 3:1). Even today it is harder to go against the stream and retain good morals.

Exod. 5:13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.

Exod. 5:14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as heretofore?

Because the brick-making pace could not be maintained, the Hebrew overseers were beaten with bastinadoes, a method the Egyptians used to teach lessons. The men were forced to lie down on their stomachs with their legs pulled up behind them. Then the feet were beaten with bastinadoes, which caused excruciating pain. Recovery took a week or two, and sometimes the individual never recovered.

Exod. 5:15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?

Exod. 5:16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.

Exod. 5:17 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.

Exod. 5:18 Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.

Exod. 5:19 And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish aught from your bricks of your daily task.

The Hebrew overseers petitioned Pharaoh: “Why do you do this to us? We cannot make the same number of bricks unless you give us straw. The fault lies with your own people.We are being beaten. Your people are not sympathetic.”

Again Pharaoh replied negatively, using the same reason: “You are idle. That is why you want to go and do sacrifice to your God. Go and work. You will get no straw, but you must make the same number of bricks.” The Hebrew overseers realized they were in a dreadful situation. Of course there was a time interval between Moses’ and Aaron’s initial request of Pharaoh and the plagues so that this situation could unfold.

Exod. 5:20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:

The Hebrew overseers met Moses and Aaron after receiving the negative response from Pharaoh. Moses and Aaron had been standing there waiting. Perhaps they knew the overseers were going in to see Pharaoh.

Exod. 5:21 And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.

The Hebrew overseers were not happy to see Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have made us stink in Pharaoh’s sight. Our condition is now worse than it was before.”

Exod. 5:22 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?

Exod. 5:23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.

Having second thoughts, Moses prayed to God: “Lord, why has this evil befallen the people? Why have you sent me? The people are worse off now.” When underneath the pain, we cannot see the hand of God because it is very heavy. But when deliverance comes, we get proportionate joy from the liberation, even though we were near the crushing point. Moses was impressed with his own incapability to bring about the Exodus as he had hoped. God had given three signs and said that Moses would bring the people back to Mount Sinai, which would be still another sign, but all that seemed far away under the current circumstances.

Spiritual lesson: A delayed response from God can be helpful to the Christian. The one underneath the problem yearns for immediate deliverance, but such a response is not necessarily in the best interest of the Christian.

The Israelites were not crying to God at this point. Being soured, they complained to Moses and Aaron and questioned their authenticity, but Moses properly turned to the Lord.

God had said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, but people forget (Exod. 4:21). The lesson for us is that when perplexing conditions develop, we should look further into the Word.

Jesus said to his apostles, “O ye of little faith,” yet they had great faith. Of all the Israelites on the scene at that time, Moses and Aaron were handpicked, but they still needed development and reminders. Faith can constantly be increased, bringing commensurate blessings.

Moses was told in advance that Pharaoh would not be receptive. In addition, Pharaoh was angry, and his anger was part of the hardening process. His heart would get harder and harder until it would be necessary for God to inflict the plagues.

Feeling his ineptitude now, Moses thought: “Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I did not state the words quite right, and someone else could do a better job.” He was anxious for the people’s deliverance. Moreover, he was unusual in his meekness and humility. He returned to the Lord in prayer, being unable to understand the calamity. Moses further thought, “Since I spoke to Pharaoh, he has done more evil to the Israelites, and neither has God delivered them.” But God had told Moses earlier that Pharaoh would refuse. Moses’ questioning shows that even a faithful minister needs reminding and development—the leader as well as those who are led. As we proceed, we will be able to trace Moses’ character development.

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